A friend on mine recently passed away. Her name was Patricia. You probably didn’t know Patricia, although it is quite possible you noticed her walking along a local sidewalk, looking a little lost. I often saw Patricia in a variety of Peninsula cities, as far north as San Mateo and as far south as Los Altos. She was hard to miss as she never wore more than a t-shirt.
Patricia was homeless and mentally ill. She was what we call a Germaphobe; I am sure she had other disorders as well. About 25 years ago a few of us at CPC met Patricia and began helping her stay off the streets and stay fed. We learned that Patricia had once led a normal life. She had parents, siblings, a husband and a daughter. Sometime in her 40’s, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that left her mentally disabled. Over time, we became Patricia’s friend. She was really a delightful person when you got to know her. She loved the old time actress Jennifer Jones. She had a way with numbers. And she had quite a sense of humor! I will never forget how, as my hair grayed over the years, she would tease me about it. I loved that about her. Many people at CPC took a personal interest in Patricia, listening to her, helping her in practical ways, laughing with her, and considering her a friend.
Often times, I must admit, I’m afraid of people like Patricia. I avoid even making eye contact with them. But as I reflect on my friendship with Patricia, I’m the one who loses out when I do this. Jesus once said of people like Patricia, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). It seems that in an almost mysterious way Jesus identifies with people like Patricia. Perhaps that is why we who knew her were so blessed by her friendship — as we loved and served her, somehow she was mediating the presence of Jesus to us. Through Patricia, we were somehow able to enter more deeply into His heart. From now on, whenever I hear those words, You did for me, I will think of Patricia.